Practice pays off for Patriots CB Dennard

911269.jpg

Practice pays off for Patriots CB Dennard

FOXBORO -- Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard made his NFL debut on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. And he made a few big plays to break up critical passes from Peyton Manning.

His presence on the field Sunday exemplifies exactly where the Patriots are with their secondary. They're looking to improve, even if it means giving a previously injured rookie his first opportunity against a quarterback like Manning.

But Bill Belichick's reason for giving Dennard an opportunity didn't just stem from team needs. It also was a reward for the improvements Dennard has made in his overall game during practice.

As Belichick pointed out on Wednesday, Dennard has become a better football player, day-by-day.

"He performed well in practice," said Belichick. "He's had some opportunities the last couple weeks. He missed some time there, earlier in the season. And he's had some opportunities at practice, on the practice squad. That led to some opportunities on defense, running our stuff. And it looked like he showed that he was prepared, that he knew what to do, and that he was competitive doing it. We sprinkled him in there a little bit during the game, and he was able to be competitive."

Report: Amendola has high ankle sprain, may be out until playoffs

Report: Amendola has high ankle sprain, may be out until playoffs

The Patriots lost another offensive weapon when, days after Rob Gronkowski underwent season-ending back surgery, Danny Amendola hobbled off the field with a foot injury in New England's 26-10 win over the Rams on Sunday.

On Monday morning, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported the extent of the injury:

Amendola's absence creates an immediate issue on special teams, but also thins the wide-receiver corps as the team heads down the final stretch and attempts to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.